city in Cherokee County, Kansas, United States

Galena, population 3000, is a city in Southeastern Kansas. This city is an old mining town which was named after its abundance of the mineral galena, a lead sulfide ore formerly extracted in the region.


Downtown Galena

While the first railway had come to the area in 1871, a spring 1877 discovery of lead ore was the impetus for a landrush which established Galena as an incorporated city in May 1877. At one point, two rival town sites (Empire City north of Short Creek and Galena south of the creek) were operated by rival mining companies. By 1904 there were over thirty mining companies; local population at the peak of the mining boom was between 10000-30000 people.

In 1897 three members of the Staffleback family, which operated a house of ill repute on Owl Creek on the west side of Galena, were imprisoned for robbing and murdering miner Frank Galbreath; his body had been found dumped into an abandoned mine shaft. Other murders on the property were long alleged but never proven. The case drew instant notoriety and parallels were drawn to the "Bloody Benders", a family of dishonest innkeepers 66 miles (110km) further west (in Cherryvale KS) who robbed and murdered travellers from 1871-1873. In 2012, an Arkansas-based paranormal group restored an abandoned Victorian house at 206 N. Main Street as the "Galena Murder Bordello" to sell tours as a haunted house; their claims were aggressively debunked by the local historical society. The murders had been widely covered by newspapers at the time; a mob of forty vigilantes with torches and kerosene had burned the original wooden structure on Owl Creek to the ground in 1897, nothing remained. The ghost tours eventually were discontinued; 206 N. Main St. was sold and became an antiquities store in 2016.

In 1910, African-American resident William Boston was arrested for killing Benjamin Jones of the Windle & Burr livery stable in a clumsily-executed robbery; as a 200-strong lynch mob was forming in front of the local jail, Galena police chief John Fitzgerald swiftly loaded the handcuffed prisoner into a motorcar at the back of the jail, which quickly departed to the county jail at Columbus. The mob left empty-handed.

In 1926, Route 66 came to town, initially crossing into Kansas from Joplin, Missouri on 7th Street. The route was moved slightly further south (onto the modern K-66 routing) in the early 1970s.

In 1935, the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers (CIO) went on strike in the Tri-State Lead and Zinc District; the mine owners attempted to break the strike by forcing workers to leave the CIO-backed union and join a bogus "Blue Card Union", controlled by the company. Thousands of workers refused and were sacked. Violent confrontations took place between the two rival groups of workers in 1935 and again in 1937; at one point Route 66 traffic was shut down and the Kansas National Guard called in. Eventually the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered the employers to stop encouraging membership in a company union, but the damage was done.

Lead and zinc mined in the region (Joplin MO to Galena KS to Picher OK) were vital to the war effort in two world wars. By the 1950s, the mineral deposits were depleted and mining companies began to close. Abandoned factories which once belonged to the Eagle-Picher mining company are still visible on the road from Joplin into Galena, but the town is a shadow of its former self. Picher fared worse; abandoned as an environmental disaster ghost town, its last business closed in 2015.

Route 66 was bypassed by Interstate 44, which does not enter the state, instead running from Missouri directly into Oklahoma. East Galena's historic business district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Route 66 people and landmarks were the basis for the cartoon village in "Cars" (2006 film). Galena was part of a Radiator Springs research tour in which Oklahoma Route 66 historian Michael Wallis led Pixar crews through every little town from Baxter Springs to Peach Springs and a little beyond. In Galena, late Pixar artist Joe Ranft had spotted an old "boom truck" which had been used to lower equipment into mine shafts; in nearby Riverton, Pixar met Kansas Route 66 Association president Dean Walker, who twisted his feet 180° and started walking backward. Walker told the Pixar folks tales of the spooklight, a local Route 66 legend which appears as the "Ghostlight" in the trailers for the film.

Get in


Access is by motorcar on Route 66; Galena is eight miles west of Joplin, Missouri.

This road is marked as state highway 66 from Joplin through Galena. Interstate 44 diverges from Route 66 in Duenweg (a Joplin suburb), bypassing Kansas entirely. There is no public transit of any kind in Galena.

Get around

  • Galena Mining & Historical Museum, 319 W. 7th, +1 620 783-2192. 9-11AM & 1-3:30PM, closed Sun, reduced hours off-season. Mining museum in relocated Missouri-Texas-Kansas railroad depot. Mineral specimens, mining equipment and a model of the Grand Central Mine formerly east of Galena. Collection of oil paintings titled "Abandoned Mine Scenes" by a local artist. free.
Restored Kan-O-Tex station





Go next

Routes through Galena
TulsaBaxter Springs  W   E  JoplinSpringfield

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